In the interest of journalistic integrity, I feel I should make something clear: If I walk into a room at a show, nay, if I walk past a room at a show and Tom Waits is on offer, I will sit down and stay. There are very few artists I know as intimately or revisit as often, and I will grab any chance I can for serendipitous Waits-ing. I used to bring more Tom Waits with me to shows, but really if there’s anything better than hearing your favorite artist on a state of the art system, it’s unexpectedly hearing said artist on a state of the art system, and getting to offer fistbumps of brotherhood to a stranger.
Now you know. I hope my friends in the industry will use this information wisely. This is a power to be used for good, not evil.
After all that, you won’t be surprised to know the joy I felt when I happened to walk into this room just as another showgoer requested the title track from Tom Waits’s Alice. I suppressed a little “squee!” and sat my butt down.
When I heard this system at T.H.E. Show in Newport earlier this year, I was very impressed by its speed, pure treble, and imaging. This time, I was enthralled by the way that the system captured the texture of this smoky ballad. The piano and vibes in the background rang out sweetly in counterpoint to Colin Stetson’s sax and Tom swallowing the mic as he darkly sang about how “there’s only Alice,” issuing a wistful warning. I’ve always liked this particular song because of the way obsession and danger tangle up so thoroughly in a kind of gothic romance. Every detail was accessible here, but there was none of the over-precise or etched sound that can distract from the musical storytelling.
The BMC Audio Purvox speakers ($6,490) make use of an interesting bipolar architecture. One 6.9″ bass/midrange driver and one AMT tweeter are mounted at the front of the extruded aluminum case, with a driver and tweeter of equal size set at a 45-degree angle at the rear, firing up and back. I’m told the design is responsible in part for the surprisingly big and well-defined soundstage, as well as contributing to the way they disappear into the room.
The rest of the system was BMC, as well, and matched the system I heard in Newport. It consisted of the CS2 integrated amp ($8,390), BDCD1.1 Belt Drive CD player/transport ($5,990), DAC1 Pre HR DAC and preamp ($6,290), and PureUSB1 Active USB interconnect ($390). HB Cable Design contributed the PlowerSlave Marble power distributor ($8,995), and cables were provided by Stage III Concepts and Thales. The rack was from Finite Element, a Pagode APS.